Digital cameras just keep on getting better and better, which means that my job gets harder by the week. It's rare indeed that I come across a genuinely bad camera, and even average ones these days are packed with advanced features and have the kind of performance and image quality that would have been exceptional just a few years ago, so it gets harder to find one that really stands out from the crowd. However once in a while a camera will cross my desk that is unmistakeably something a bit special. I have one such rarity today in the shape of the new Samsung WB1000, a new advanced compact from the same series as the superb WB550 travel camera and the also impressive WB5000 superzoom.
The WB1000 is a technically advanced camera with a lot of useful and interesting features. Its basic specification compares well with rival compacts, with a 12.2 megapixel CCD sensor, a 5x zoom f/2.8-5.6 Schneider Kreuznach lens with a zoom range equivalent to 24-120mm and optical image stabilisation, and a new three-inch high resolution AMOLED monitor. It offers HD video recording with stereo sound recording, full manual exposure and HDMI output. It's hard to think of any recent cameras from other manufacturers with which to compare the WB1000. While it's not quite up to the exalted level of advanced cameras such as the Canon G11 or Panasonic LX3 it's certainly head and shoulders above most point-and-shoot compacts. Perhaps a fair comparison might be the Panasonic FX550 which also features a 5x zoom lens and manual exposure. It is also about the same price, retailing at around £220-230 depending on where you look.
It has to be said though that the WB1000 is not the most attractive camera in the world. The design of the body is obviously derived from Samsung's NV series compacts such as the NV100HD, and even incorporates the novelty analogue dials for battery life and memory card capacity previously seen on the NV9. It solidly made with a strong metal body and well mounted recessed controls, and is available in either black or the brushed metal finish seen here. The WB1000 is surprisingly compact considering its ambitious specification, measuring 97 x 61 x 21mm and weighing 184g including battery and card. The design incorporates a textured handgrip on the front and a strap lug that doubles as a thumb grip on the back, and the camera handles well, however the proportions of the body do look rather ungainly and the mis-matched textures look a bit scrappy.